I’m not the kind of person who derives ludicrous amounts of satisfaction from writing about trains, at least publically, but from time to time, the Indian Railways do provide me with enough material that makes for a compelling, dare I say timeless classic. So prepare yourself for a tale of jealousy, conflict, divisiveness and of course tragic irony in the abridged version of ought to be a children’s novel, The Central Line and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day;
If you’ve ever lived in Mumbai you’ll know that when it comes to the trains the Central line is the ugly, adopted, underachiever who sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs. It’s sad really when you think about the fact that the Central Line actually carries more people in relative safety than its sexy cousin all while looking out for its bipolar little brother, the Harbour Line. For years the Western Line got all the new toys from Alternating Current to seats that don’t give you splinters to carriages that weren’t built by the British; but one day all of that was to change.
A very brave gentleman named Suresh Prabhu who happens to be the Railway Minister decided, for some inexplicable reason that the honour of having the first A/C train in Mumbai would do go to the Central Line, a line that until 2015 still ran DC trains, which had been obsolete since the 1940’s. The date for when the first A/C train would make its debut (15th May) was announced and the people of Mumbai were either thrilled or pissed off depending on which side of Rs.10,000 per sq foot their property rates were.
The trials were completed and the day of reckoning loomed over the city, but just a few days before the Central Line’s triumph railway officials discovered something they should have realised before they defiant announcement. The British era bridges that criss-cross the railway lines and hadn’t been upgraded since before Independence were too low to accommodate the new trains which were considerably taller than the older models; because of which the plan had to be scrapped and the trains handed over to the Western Line.
The moral of this story is; if you ever think God hates you be thankful you aren’t the Central Line.